How Drag Changed My Life

In 2016 I had a breakdown and moved to London.

Now, it was a lot more complex and awful and involved than that sentence implies, but that’s a story for another time. All you need to know right now is that I dropped out of uni, spent a good few months working in Starbucks and wanting to die, before having a complete meltdown and accepting my dad’s offer to move to London and live in his house.

As I type this, I don’t really remember much about that year.

I moved in the September, spent almost two months doing nothing but sitting around at his house, going to therapy, and still wanting to die - before I started working in my current job at the end of the October and then replaced ‘sitting around at home’ with ‘sitting around at work’. But the therapy and wanting to die stayed the same.

It was around the same time that I rediscovered RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix. I’d watched it once before, seasons 1-4, when I was about 16 but quickly forgotten about it.

This time, however, something stuck.

I don’t know if it was seeing people be their authentic selves when I was struggling so hard to know who I was and what I wanted. I don’t know if it was a longing to be more a part of the LGBT community now I knew I was gay. I don’t know whether it was the sheer escapism of the show, from suicide and self harm in my real life to sparkles and sequins and glamour - whilst also showcasing the very real side of life.

I don’t think I’ll ever know what it was.

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No matter, I was hooked. I binged on every episode from the start of season 2, and when I was finished I finally had that sense of belonging that I’d be waiting for. I’d started interacting with fellow fans on social media, I started building friendships I still treasure to this day, and I started working up the courage to attend my very first show.

That first show came when Mikey, who is now one of my best friends, invited me along to see Alyssa Edwards at Porn Idol. Figuring there was no time like the present, I took my anti-anxiety medication, and marched myself to the station.

I was the biggest bundle of nerves you have ever seen.

It took everything in me not to turn around and go back home, go back to safety where I didn’t have to meet new people and confront my anxiety.

But I did it.

I got through it.

It changed everything.

I then spent the majority of 2017 going to various RuGirl shows put on by UK performers: I saw Katya, Ginger Minj, Courtney Act, Willam, Adore Delano, Alaska and so, so many more.

It was the start of a long lasting love obsession. It was the start of me finding my tribe, and becoming more authentically myself.

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With each show that passed, I started experimenting more with makeup, I started to experiment more with how I dressed. Gone were the black sack dresses and neutral tones. I wanted colour, I wanted more form fitting, I wanted me. My self-confidence went through the roof.

At the same time, I started discovering and learning more about the London drag scene.

I attended the launch of Michelle Visage’s Illamasqua lashes and was faced with six(?) of the most beautiful queens I had ever seen, not knowing at that point that most of them would end up becoming a big part of my life.

As I discovered more about the London scene, I started falling out of love with RuPaul’s Drag Race. Turned out, it was an incredible start to loving drag, and introduced me to the community I hold dearly in my heart, but it ended up not being the drag that I always wanted to see.

The show for me, now, will always be special. But I don’t always choose to watch it, knowing about some of the more problematic aspects.

2018 I stopped attending RuGirl shows and started attending way more local shows, until halfway through the year I was going to a show a week. Or more. Remember that week in November when I was out every night bar one? I do.

I will never have the words to describe how doing so has helped me.

Going to shows gave me a reason to get out of the house. Going to shows took me away, if only temporarily, from the dark thoughts that tinted every day. Going to shows introduced me to some incredible new people and gave me friends I will always, always treasure.

Going to shows taught me who I was, taught me that it’s okay to be who I am, and gave me the life I never knew I needed.

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I am forever changed thanks to drag, particularly the London scene and the amazing performers I have the privilege of knowing. I will never know what might have happened had I not found drag and the friends that came along with it. I will never have the words to describe how much I have changed.

I can say for the first time in years that I like who I am. I am content. I am happy.

I am not the scared, anxious, depressed girl who came to London with a suitcase and a blank future.

And the only thing I have to say in response is: Thank you. You gave me my life back. Although I will always have mental health problems, I have an escape route and a place to be when I don’t want to be anywhere. There will never be anything I can do to repay what I have been given. Thank you.

Although this year I would like to sleep more so if there can stop being so many amazing shows on, that would be great. Ta. (Joking. Put more on. Can sleep when am dead.)

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Love, Cordelia